Hollywood to Honolulu: the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company (a book) by Gordon Ghareeb and Martin Cox
Marking the 90th anniversary of the start of the first regular passenger and freight service from Los Angeles – Honolulu, I have serialized some extracts from our book Hollywood to Honolulu: the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company by Gordon Ghareeb and Martin Cox. (Published by Steamship Historical Society of America 2009)
Following an extravagant open house and reception to show off their new masterpiece, the sparkling LASSCO flagship and United States Shipping Board hallmark the SS CITY OF LOS ANGELES was backed away from her Wilmington berth at 12:30 pm on Monday, September 11th 1922 with 264 gleeful passengers onboard cheering and waving to the thousands lined along the LASSCO pier and the wharves of the harbor who came to view this momentous event in Southern California history. In her cargo holds the vessel was carrying 32 different varieties of Southern California fruit to the islanders, 8,000-barrels of fuel oil for Standard Oil and a huge pipe organ for the Honolulu Princess Theater. As the liner straightened out in the main channel Captain Poulsen traded three whistle blasts with the CITY OF HONOLULU still at the shipyard outfitting berth two thousand feet to starboard in the West Basin. Leaving her half-painted consort behind Poulsen guided his command through the ovation of docked shipping along the path to the outer harbor. A Wrigley tugboat followed in the liner’s wake to provide music for the occasion from the Los Angeles Police Department Band planted on the smaller craft’s after deck. A biplane zoomed out of the bright sky to buzz the tropical vessel and hanging from the underside of the aircraft was an acrobat waving ecstatically to the receding steamer. Winding through the anchored United States battle fleet in the outer harbor the CITY OF LOS ANGLES at last rounded the breakwater and set course across the “Great Circle Route of Sunshine” for the islands to the southwest and the beginning of a new era in trade.
The throng of Southern California society aboard the CITY OF LOS ANGELES settled down quickly to the shipboard routine of a great liner at sea. Radio broadcasts from station KHJ at The Times Building (both owned by Harry Chandler) in downtown Los Angeles and relayed to the public rooms aboard ship maintained a connection with the mainland heretofore unknown. Songs such as “I Love You California,” and the classic “Aloha Oe” serenaded the Polynesian bound Angelenos as far as signals would reach. The exclusive passenger list was made up entirely of members from the “First Annual Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce Excursion Party” under the direction of the chamber’s president, Captain John Fredricks (who spent much of his time on the bridge with Capt. Poulsen) and his wife. Every stateroom was taken and LASSCO consented to open a section of the better second class cabins to accommodate everyone from the excursion party. Among the prominent denizens onboard were: LASSCO president Fred Baker and his wife; LASSCO vice president and general manager Ralph Chandler and his wife; Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce secretary and 32-year chamber veteran Frank Wiggins (making good his 15-year old promise to return to the islands with a regular service) and Mrs. Wiggins; Los Angeles mayor George Cryer (leaving councilman William Criswell in charge of the city) with his wife and ten-year old son Edward (who quickly became the ship’s shuffleboard champion); Los Angeles caterer and LASSCO food concessionaire Cyrus Boos (owner of the highly popular Boos Cafeteria chain of restaurants in Los Angeles); Hollywood theatrical and motion picture producer W.H. Clune and his wife; Pacific coast United States Shipping Board director F.W. Realyer and his wife; well known Pacific coast navigator Captain Lebbens Curtis and Mrs. Curtis; Chamber of Commerce foreign trade commissioner Clarence Matson and his wife; Mrs. Erle Leaf traveling with the widow of Joe Naphtaly (who’s husband had died unexpectedly earlier in the year); Los Angeles Shipbuilding & Drydock Corporation executive S.P. Trood; well known Hollywood mortician W.B. Todd and his wife; Castle Films producer Robert Durrensberger; and several Universal Motion Picture Studio cameramen and photographers sent out to capture the round-trip jamboree on film.
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland. Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.